Risk management is one of the largest budget items in most study abroad offices. With good reason, too, since one poorly handled incident can cost any office dearly in reputation, student trust, and financial repercussions.
There are great companies who will take care of an institution's travel intelligence and risk management needs. Everything from threat monitoring to active outreach if an event occurs is possible through these providers. But, unfortunately, spending thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars on a travel risk management platform is out of reach for small to medium sized offices. In this post, we will review three different free tools that can help any office prepare travelers for an emergency and communicate during a crisis.
Facebook has had its fair share of criticism, especially from Gen Z as younger generations log into other platforms more regularly. Although they may not share the same usage rate as Millenials, Gen Z still uses Facebook.
On top of that, Facebook Messenger is considered the second most used messaging system in the world (only behind WhatsApp), which is why a Facebook page can be a great tool for an office on a budget.
With a dedicated Facebook page, administrators have the option to mass-message all followers of a page at once. All responses will be sent to the page and can be organized from Facebook’s admin portal. Of course, these messages only deliver through Facebook Messenger (not SMS/text or any other messaging service).
Learn more on how to build your own Facebook Page here.
If messaging is all your office needs to keep travelers safe, then Whatsapp is the way to go. Whatsapp is considered the largest messaging service in the world with billions of global users. It’s accessible with any internet connection (data or wifi) and many students already use it.
Within WhatsApp, admins can create groups of students - for example, students traveling on the same program or leaving on the same date. If an emergency occurs, admins can message the group and gather student responses. WhatsApp also gives users other useful features, such as location sharing.
The only challenge that comes with using just WhatsApp is organizing responses. Since it is essentially a large group message, it can be overwhelming to keep up with who’s responded and who is still missing. On top of that, students’ responses are not private; since they’re messaging within a group, all other group members can read responses.
Finally, not all staff members will have access to the responses unless they are a part of the group themselves.
Google Drive is a well known document storage and management tool. Universities, businesses, and individuals across the country use it as a more flexible platform to share all types of documents and files.
One useful feature about Google Drive and Google’s Suite of document tools is that admins can generate a link to share a document. No app is needed by those receiving the document. This can be a critical tool for offices who focus on preparing travelers with contact information and detailed plans for particular events.
In most offices, this content already exists and Google Drive or the Google Suite can provide travelers with access to it 24/7 (within internet coverage zones). Simply upload or create the piece of content travelers need, go to the “Share” button in the top right and confirm anyone with the link can view the document. From there, just copy and paste the link into an email or onto your website so travelers can always access it online.
Risk management will always be an evolving challenge as the world continues to change and new threats are realized. At the start of 2020, we never expected a global pandemic; now, we’ll have to prepare for that threat going forward in every trip.
These tools and resources will help an office prepare for an emergency, but the trade off will be the work needed to maintain these systems. If risk management is a priority for your office and a more professional system is required, check out Aerogami’s Parachute platform: a purpose-built tool that provides everything a small-to-medium sized office needs to prepare and react to emergencies abroad - all at an affordable price point.